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Confessions of a West Wing virgin... - Printable Version

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Confessions of a West Wing virgin... - the rain dog - 12-30-2008



So after many years of avoiding this show studiously, history has re-aligned to the point I wanted to watch it at last. In fact, here's my post regarding this in the presidential thread from back in October...

Quote:

Originally Posted by The Rain Dog
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Read into this what you will all...

For the longest time I have refused to watch The West Wing.

I've always known I'd love it, the writing is some of the best on television and it has some incredible actors dealing with big, heavy themes and subjeccts. No, the reason I couldn't watch it was for many of the reasons Ive stated above, because with all the great writing and acting the story had the White House populated by honest, genuinely good people who were in politics and running the nation for the noblest of intentions - in other words, a white house administration that the cynic in me believe could no longer exist in the real world, if indeed it had ever existed at all.

The whole show as a consequence just seemed like a big leftie tease, the idea that you could lose yourself for an hour every week with a president and his team that was everything you wished a pres could and should be, while in the real world we were suffering under the very realworld administration of W. It felt like fantasy land for idealistic political boffins, so as a consequence, I stayed away.

Then, in the last tweleve months, as the idea of President Barack Hussein Obama went from being nothing but a lovely dream to being a political possibility, and idealism and hope became political currency for the first time in my lifetime - whith the idea of a truely honest, good man who actually seemed to have the better angels of our nature at heart getting the chance to run the worlds largest superpower seemingly a very real possibility, well, The West Wing all of a sudden didn't look too far-fetched.

I then promised myself that if Obama won, I would finally indulge and watch the whole damn series back to back.

Last night, I placed season one in my quickflix cue - and realised what it meant only after I'd done it.

Well, I ended up getting given the shows first two seasons for my birthday shortly after I posted that, and Ive finally started watching season one in the last fortnight - I have two episodes left to go in the first season.

Holy fuck fiddling shit, this show is so breath-takingly stunning, in it's writing, it's plotting and its performances I am honestly gob-smacked.

Now, I freely admit, Im a political animal who grew up in a pretty intensely politically savvy household, but this is some of the most enjoyable TV I have simply ever seen, not just because I find the labyrinth cut and thrust of politics to be utterly riveting, but because Sorkin does such an incredible job of keeping a show that could easily be completely unfathomable for the average watcher not just discernable, but incredibly entertaining as well, this may be fast becoming my favourite show ever.

My better half is the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to me as far as interest in politics goes, but the show is simply so well written, the characters are so likeable and the performances so good that she's been there every step of the way with me and loving it as well.

As with the other virgin confession threads in the TV forum I have to ask, is this kind of quality maintained throughout the show?

...cause once we reached the "Let Bartlett Be Bartlett" episode tonite where Jeb stops trying to please everyone and seemingly satisfying no one to actually standing up and fighting for the thing's he believes, even if it will cost him his second term, I found myself applauding and getting a zing up my spine I have only gotten very very rarely in both TV and films.

Love it love it love it. Its only my missus lack of watching stamina thats pacing me through this and stopping me from simply watching it in my every waking recreational moment (tho I think Im enjoying it more as a consequence).

Any other fans out there? Does this show get better than this?


- diva - 12-30-2008

Everyone I know has told me to watch it. I just never got around to it, knowing that once I started there would be 7 seasons worth of material to get to. I just received the first season for Chanukah so now I have no excuse. However, it has to wait until I finish The Wire (I just started season 4).


- james kimbell - 12-30-2008

The second season is better. (and it's in widescreen!)


- Richard Dickson - 12-30-2008

Agreed on that, James. And Diva, while I like the later seasons, you could reasonably stop after Season 4 and see most -- if not all -- of the greatness.


- tati - 12-30-2008

Ahh, to enjoy The West Wing for the first time. What a pleasure.
Such a fantastic show. I feel i know the first 4 seasons by hard. But every time i come across them on cable, i am compelled to watch!


- louris - 12-30-2008

There are some soft spots in five and six, but by the end of seven I was totally ready for another seven seasons of watching the new administration.


- Richard Dickson - 12-30-2008

Quote:

Originally Posted by Louris
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There are some soft spots in five and six, but by the end of seven I was totally ready for another seven seasons of watching the new administration.

I was ready to watch either the Democratic OR Republican candidate.

Still not a fan of how they treated Toby in the last season though.


- Paul755 - 12-30-2008

It loses a bit of steam when Sorkin and Lowe leave. But even at it's worst it was better than 95% of all the other shows on TV. And i would have totally been down with seeing another seven seasons with the new President.


- edhocken - 12-30-2008

Especially with Ed O'Neill as the VP. God dammit I love it when he's on screen.


- francis wolcott - 12-30-2008

Agree on Toby's treatment in the last season and I think even Richard Schiff agrees. And when Sorkin leaves, you will "feel" it, but it's still very watchable.

The ending of Two Cathedrals (second season's finale) might just be my favorite moment in TV, so even if the show eventually settles at a "not entirely brilliant" level, once Sorkin leaves, I think you'll still be blown away some more.


- jonathan - 12-30-2008

I used to watch re-runs of this on Bravo a lot with my dad. He lent me all seven season box sets in exchange for my Shield boxsets but now that I've started The Wire and The Sopranos it'll be a bit before I get to this.

Two Cathedrals is still the best hour of television I've ever watched. It's not even the speech. It's the conversation in the Oval Office before he goes to the press conference that gets me more than anything.

Although the speech is fucking awesome don't get me wrong.


- edhocken - 12-30-2008

As out of nowhere as that two-partner may be. To see John Goodman in charge. Well, that was fun.


- steve moonrocket - 12-30-2008

This is my next big TV project once I'm done with Twin Peaks.


- Paul755 - 12-30-2008

Quote:

Originally Posted by EdHocken
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As out of nowhere as that two-partner may be. To see John Goodman in charge. Well, that was fun.

I still think it would have been better story wise if the Daughter had died.


- rathbandu - 12-31-2008

Killing Zoey off would have been lame. Abbey divorcing Bartlet (Jed, not Jeb, btw) would have been much more interesting from a storytelling standpoint, I think.

Two Cathedrals is pretty much the single greatest hour of dramatic network television ever.


- edhocken - 12-31-2008

Quote:

Originally Posted by RathBandu
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Two Cathedrals is pretty much the single greatest hour of dramatic network television ever.

"Three Men and Adena" begs to differ.


- ratty - 12-31-2008

This and The Wire are my two biggest Television Shames. The Wire DVD set will be snapped up via my tax refund, and someday I hope to get to Wing. I don't want my only television Sorkin exposure to be Studio 60.


- edhocken - 12-31-2008

Nobody's only Sorkin experience should be Studio 60.


- the rain dog - 12-31-2008

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ratty
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This and The Wire are my two biggest Television Shames. The Wire DVD set will be snapped up via my tax refund, and someday I hope to get to Wing. I don't want my only television Sorkin exposure to be Studio 60.

Yeah, Im unshaming myself in reverse - The Wire will be experienced following my finishing of West Wing.


- rathbandu - 12-31-2008

Quote:

Originally Posted by EdHocken
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"Three Men and Adena" begs to differ.

It's neck-and-neck between the two of them. My brain and objectivity says 'Adena' but my heart says 'Cathedrals.'


- james kimbell - 12-31-2008

The way you can tell TWW season 2 is brilliant is that "Two Cathedrals" doesn't blow all the other 'sodes out of the water. "Gunmen," "Noel," and "17 People" are up there, too.


- tempus - 12-31-2008

I love so much about the first four seasons of this show, and "Noel" is probably my favorite episode. It feels like a once-in-a-lifetime TV series. Good for you, Rain Dog. Keep watching.


- rathbandu - 01-01-2009

Season Two is one of those rare seasons of television where you not only had no bad episodes, you had no good episodes either. You only had very good to legendary episodes. When you're talking about a 22 episode season, that's a very rare thing for shows to be able to pull off. (Personally, I think Season Five of Buffy is one of the only others, but I'm in the minority there.)


- the rain dog - 01-01-2009

Just finished episode three of season two where Jeb gives the mother of all smackdowns to the biblically homophobic talkback bitch by running through the other things the bible outlaws and while I've seen that before and read things along those lines, nothing was quite as emotionally satisfying as watching Sheens Jeb run it down like that.

"Toby, that's how I beat him."

So golden.


- ryan s~ - 01-01-2009

I understand that season 5 and 6 are seen as weak links but they are still well worth watching. But anyone who says that season seven is weak is lying to you. It's a great ride with some really great character moments and some terrific acting.

I also completely disagree with anyone who dislikes how Toby was treated in season seven. He's probably my favourite character on the show. It's the natural progression of his character. He's stubborn, opinionated and so convinced he's right about everything that his actions are perfectly in tune with what came before. Watch The Midterms and his reactions to white supremacist groups:

Quote:

C.J. Cregg: I think you're neglecting your responsibilities...
Toby Ziegler: That's crap.
C.J. Cregg: So you can behave like the director of the FBI.
Toby Ziegler: I'm waiting for the director of the FBI to behave that way. I'm waiting for the Justice Department to behave that way. I'm waiting for Congress to behave that way, and I'm waiting for the White House to behave that way.
C.J. Cregg: You want to lock up everybody with a white sheet?
Toby Ziegler: Yes, I do. Yes, I do. Who has a problem with that? Bring me anybody who has a problem with that. Yes, I do.

He's self righteous to the point of ignoring the consequences of his (and the White Houses) actions. It's a justified ending for his character arc. I love everything about it.


- rathbandu - 01-01-2009

Toby may be self-righteous, but he would simply never betray the President. He'd took more than one bullet for the Administration, for things he didn't do, or for things he screwed up. Easy to extrapolate from there. That's where I still land on that.


- francis wolcott - 01-01-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ryan S~
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I also completely disagree with anyone who dislikes how Toby was treated in season seven.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Richard Schiff

"I was sad for the show...I hated my storyline. Toby would never in 10 million years have betrayed the president in that fashion [in the seventh series, Toby is indicted for leaking classified information]. Even if he had, there would have been seven episodes' worth of fights before he did it... In the end, the only way I could make sense of my story was to come up with my own story - that Toby was covering for someone else. That, at least, made sense to me."

Just sayin'.


- ryan s~ - 01-01-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Francis Wolcott
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Just sayin'.

Like I said, I'll argue with anyone who didn't like it. I understand that Schiff (and Rath) didn't like Toby betraying the president but up until that point we had seen a character who bordered on OCD in terms of doing what he felt was right. He was willing to disregard the constitution to "get" the people who shot at them, he used the president's name to get a proper funeral for a homeless vet amongst other questionable practices. His "betrayal" of the president always felt like a natural extension of that. Was it too far for the character? Maybe. But I like the arc that it gave him.

My problem with the idea that he was covering for someone is that it makes Toby a patsy. If he did betray the president then he's a man of convictions whose willing to cross a friend to do what he believes is right. If he's covering for someone then he's simply reacting to a situation. That's not the Toby we've seen.

I'm not saying my interpretation is the correct interopretation over Schiff's interpretation. I'm just saying I like mine a lot better.


- Richard Dickson - 01-01-2009

But Toby never outright advocated disregarding the Constitution. He was just expressing frustration over the seeming collective shrug everyone was giving to the fact that white supremacists had tried to kill Charlie. EVERYONE was screwed up over that, and this was part of them working those feelings out. I don't think it was leading to Toby eventually disregarding the Constitution to get these guys. It was a howl against the seeming impotence they all felt in dealing with what happened.

Look at how Toby reacted to being kept in the dark about Bartlet's MS and exactly who was in charge the night of the shooting and tell me that's a man who would leak government secrets to help out a family member.


- rathbandu - 01-01-2009

Spoilers:

C.J. displayed a much greater propensity for "betraying" the Administration during her term as press secretary. There are countless instances where she's leaked -- or thought about leaking -- information to a reporter when she disagreed with the party line, and she's also someone who acted rashly when she was passionate about something. You put this together with the fact that C.J. and Toby probably had a thing in the past that never got resolved, and if you don't buy that, he was certainly her closest friend in the West Wing. He was covering for her, and I think Schiff lays the groundwork in his performance to make that interpretation float.


- rathbandu - 01-01-2009

I will say that the one thing that I don't like on a consistent basis about the West Wing is Joshua Malina. I've never liked him as an actor, and I really don't like Will Bailey. The other actors they had in mind for that role -- Jon Cryer and Macauley Culkin among them -- would have done some interesting things.

Although West Wing was when I learned that Winnie Cooper was still hot.

Also, I always thought that one of the reasons Lowe walked is that he never got a Christmas episode, which basically became the Emmy Showcase episodes after Schiff won. The pretty-terrible Holy Night from season four should have been his, but nooo, we got the revelation that Toby's dad used to kill people. That, to me, was a bigger WTF than Leo at the end of season six.


- Richard Dickson - 01-01-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by RathBandu
View Post
Spoilers:

C.J. displayed a much greater propensity for "betraying" the Administration during her term as press secretary. There are countless instances where she's leaked -- or thought about leaking -- information to a reporter when she disagreed with the party line, and she's also someone who acted rashly when she was passionate about something. You put this together with the fact that C.J. and Toby probably had a thing in the past that never got resolved, and if you don't buy that, he was certainly her closest friend in the West Wing. He was covering for her, and I think Schiff lays the groundwork in his performance to make that interpretation float.

Dead on. We just watched the episode where C.J. interrupted Toby's meeting about the WWII memorial and tried to turn it into a debate on sending weapons to Qumar. She always struck me as far more likely to pursue an agenda than Toby.


- ryan s~ - 01-01-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Richard Dickson
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But Toby never outright advocated disregarding the Constitution. He was just expressing frustration over the seeming collective shrug everyone was giving to the fact that white supremacists had tried to kill Charlie. EVERYONE was screwed up over that, and this was part of them working those feelings out. I don't think it was leading to Toby eventually disregarding the Constitution to get these guys. It was a howl against the seeming impotence they all felt in dealing with what happened.

Look at how Toby reacted to being kept in the dark about Bartlet's MS and exactly who was in charge the night of the shooting and tell me that's a man who would leak government secrets to help out a family member.

I just see all of that as leading to the frustration that causes Toby to do what he does. All the things that get piled on top of him or all the things that he's left in the dark on lead to his belief that maybe it's better to do the right thing and consequences be damned.

I do agree with CJ being more likely but sometimes you don't go with the likeliest of candidates. (I do dislike her becoming Chief of Staff in the later seasons though)


- ryan s~ - 01-01-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by RathBandu
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I will say that the one thing that I don't like on a consistent basis about the West Wing is Joshua Malina. I've never liked him as an actor, and I really don't like Will Bailey. The other actors they had in mind for that role -- Jon Cryer and Macauley Culkin among them -- would have done some interesting things.

You don't replace the charismatic Rob Lowe with vanilla Joshua Malina. Not only is he boring but (spoilers) his character arc gets so muddled when he sides with Bingo Bob that it ruins any good will he had.

Quote:

Originally Posted by RathBandu
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Although West Wing was when I learned that Winnie Cooper was still hot.

Not only hot but really, really bright.

Quote:

Originally Posted by RathBandu
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Also, I always thought that one of the reasons Lowe walked is that he never got a Christmas episode, which basically became the Emmy Showcase episodes after Schiff won. The pretty-terrible Holy Night from season four should have been his, but nooo, we got the revelation that Toby's dad used to kill people. That, to me, was a bigger WTF than Leo at the end of season six.

I always thought Lowe walked because he didn't want to stay on after Sorkin left.


- francis wolcott - 01-01-2009

He left, as I recall, because he signed on under the impression that he was the main character and that Bartlett was a minor character and we all know what came of that.

I like Rath's interpretation of the Toby thing. I just hallucinated a scene in which is all but subtly acknowledged and for now on I'll live in a private universe where that is the case.